One of our IFERI committee members, Bob Sweet, knew Sam Blumenfeld personally and here he writes about the first time he met Sam and developments following that event as testimony to Sam's important contribution to literacy and what a wonderful, caring man he was:
It was 1981. The occasion was the Reading Reform Foundation conference in Toronto. I was one of the speakers and in the audience was a man who would change my life, Samuel Blumenfeld. At the time I was the Director of the National Institute for Education in Washington, DC. I had been appointed to that position by President Reagan, and at that time did not really understand the depth and scope and grip that the constructivist view of learning that had gripped the nation for decades.
It was then that I received a copy of Sam’s book, The New Illiterates: And how to keep your child from becoming one. That book changed the course of my life for good. Sam and I became good friends…during the years when the Reading Reform was active, during the 1980’s, we met on occasion at the conferences, and he stayed in our home when he was in Washington, DC. When we established the National Right to Read Foundation in 1993 we promoted Alpha Phonics as one of our primary reading instruction books. His books: Is Public Education Necessary; The Whole Language/OBE Fraud; The Victims of Dick and Jane; Phonics for Success, and others too, are classics that have shaped my views of reading instruction.
In 1989 I was a staff member on the Republican Policy Committee in the U.S. Senate working for William Armstrong. I was given the opportunity to prepare a paper on illiteracy and have it published by the RSC. I used Sam’s books and his articles as a basis for that publication. It became the most publicized and widely distributed publication the committee had ever had.
A year ago, Sam asked me to join him in sending a letter he had written to the Republican National Committee asking them to consider the debacle of illiteracy in America and to do something about it! I gladly joined him in that effort as well.
The last time we met was a year ago February. Joy and I had dinner with him in Waltham, and it was at that time he told us he had dedicated Phonics for Success to us. We were touched, and very grateful. I spoke with Sam about a week ago. I called him at the hospital and we spoke briefly. He told me that he “didn’t think he would get out of the hospital alive” with his usual humor. I was glad to know that he was well cared for, and that others in the area were watching out for him.
Sam has had a powerful influence for good in the world. The thousands, perhaps millions of children who have learned to read because of his perseverance, his precision, his scholarship and his kindness to his fellow man will stand as a monument far above what most have done to combat evil, and advance truth. I treasure the memory of my friend Sam, and I will sorely miss seeing him. However, I know I will see him again on the other “side of the river.”